Building Situational Humility

The biggest thing I am working on is situational humility. How do I successfully balance the subject matter expertise my organization needs with the humility to truly lead? It is clear that such humility is critical to building psychological safety, and psychological safety is critical to building innovative teams.

Amy Edmondson’s powerful talk on psychological safety and teams

For most of my career I’ve been prized for my subject matter expertise, but there are huge limits, no one can know everything, so I am cultivating the following behaviors in my practices.

To build Humility do thisWhich meansAnd I do this
Know what you don’t knowResist “master of the universe” impulses. You may yourself excel in an area, but as a leader you are, by definition, a generalist. Rely on those who have relevant qualification and expertise. Know when to defer and delegate.I have a list of key topics that are both in my space and overlap and individuals who involving in the discussion is critical.

I’ve created a “swear jar” for every time I say something like “I have an answer” and at this rate I’ll be taking a lot of people out for drinks by the time this pandemic is over. It is all IOUs right now because I don’t remember the last time I used cash and I don’t think I’ve seen a dollar bill in 11 months.
Resist falling for your own publicityWe all put the best spin on our success — and then conveniently forget that the reality wasn’t as flawless. This is an interesting one for me. Having joined a new company 10 months ago it has been important to avoid the spin on my joining, and to not exacerbate it.

I’ve taken to keeping a list of problems and who is the right people who are not me that can solve them.
Never underestimate others The world is filled with other hard-working, knowledgable, and creative professionalsI purposely look for opportunities to meet with folks at all levels and ask them to collaborate.
Embrace and promote a spirit of serviceFocus on finding ways to help others to succeedI’m all about the development. Crucial for me here is stepping back and letting others lead, even if its more work for me as I spend more time coaching and mentoring than would actually take to do the job. But lets be honest, can’t and shouldn’t do anything.
Listen, even (no, especially) to the weird ideasOnly when you are not convinced that your idea is or will be better than someone else’s do you really open your ears to what they are saying. But there is ample evidence that you should: the most imaginative and valuable ideas tend to come from left field, from some associate who seems a little offbeat, and may not hold an exalted position in the organization.I love the weird, though maybe most when they are my weird ideas. Been working to strengthen idea management as a concept and practice in my organization.
Be passionately curiousConstantly welcome and seek out new knowledge, and insist on curiosity from those around you. Research has found linkages between curiosity and many positive leadership attributes (including emotional and social intelligence). Take it from Einstein. “I have no special talent,” he claimed. “I am only passionately curious.”I’m a voracious reading machine, its always been a central skill.

How I am trying to teach others to be curious and turn it to their advantage.
Elements of Situational Humility
Photo by rob walsh on Unsplash

February, me and the ASQ

February is a busy month for me and the ASQ.

February 11th – Boston Section meeting on “Mixed Reality in Quality 4.0”

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are more than just a science fiction dream, with the market expected to exceed $50 billion by 2024.

The technology promises that workers will have more information about the task at hand, which makes them more efficient and productive. In this session we will explore several opportunities the technologies present and provide a glimpse on how Thermo Fisher Scientific is working with key technology providers to implement on the pharmaceutical manufacturing floor.

It will be fun to discuss some of the fun stuff I’m working on at work. Thermo Fisher is hosting the event at the Waltham facility, which I haven’t even visited yet. Should be a fun time.

February 23-25, Lean and Six Sigma Conference in Phoenix

At the conference I will be presenting on “Sustaining Change – Executing a Sustainability Plan.” Sustaining change is one of my core competencies, and I’m excited to continue the conversation on this. If you re coming to the conference I look forward to seeing you there.

February 29, Unconference for the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

What better day to hold an unconference on leap day, an un-day.

We have a stimulating day planned. We will be discussing team excellence and quality culture and contributing to development of a body of knowledge for the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum. The agenda is here.

The Unconference is free to members of the ASQ. For non-ASQ members there is a charge of $15.00 per person for lunch.

Please RSVP by February 24th, so we can reserve a seat for you. We are looking forward to seeing you there. If there is anything you will need or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. The RSVP is here.

The my.ASQ.org event page is here: https://my.asq.org/communities/events/item/170/60/1568

It is going to be a great way to end the month and I hope you can join us.

2019 State of the Blog

I started this blog as an exercise in deliberate practice, as well as reflective. In order to grow it is important to engage in critical reflection, which requires a process of mutual learning, a consciously organised process of deliberative and distributed reflection. Which is what I strive to do in my blog posts.

At the end of last year, I evaluated my blog goals through an ACORN exercise, as well as updating a SWOT. These stand up pretty well, even in a year of changes where I took on member leader responsibilities as the chair of the ASQ’s Team and Workplace Excellence Forum and took a new job.

I met my posting goal, which was 1.5 posts a week, with 81 posts and 33.5k words.

The top 5 posts of 2019 are:

  1. FDA signals – no such thing as a planned deviation: Written in 2018 this post directs a lot of traffic to the blog from search engines, and has the largest geographic spread. Key message here continues to be all temporary changes, all planned departures, need to go through a change control system of appropriate rigor based on the risk involved.
  2. Risk Based Data Integrity Assessment: Data Integrity and Risk Management are two of my favorite topics and in this post I combine the two and provide a fairly usable tool. I wrote this post while at the ASQ’s Audit Conference, where I presented on data integrity.
  3. Lessons Learned as a Developing Leader: I am very gratified that this piece of introspection was viewed as many times as it was. Three months into my current job and this post, and the followup, are a good roadmap.
  4. Decision Quality: How we make decisions, deal with subjectivity and uncertainty and problem-solve are all big concerns for our organizations. This post serves as a good anchor for my thought and practice, as well as the direction of future endeavors.
  5. Driving for Mature Quality Organizations – FDA recent perspective: Building a quality culture, driving maturity in our organizations are critical. The FDA is spot-on, and companies really need to be coming to grips and dealing with this systematically.

Looking ahead to 2020 for the blog, I am going to take a bit of direction from Luigi Sille who set the following goals for himself:

  1. Build up my expertise
  2. Grow my network
  3. Continuously improve every single day

For building expertise, I want to continue to focus on building tools and methods to: deal with subjectivity and uncertainty around decision making and risk management; proactively build a culture of quality and excellence, especially dealing with aspects of data integrity; and, find connections between the larger organizational/leadership/operational bodies of work and adapt them to the quality profession.

This blog is a large part of growing my network and I want to get to 2 blog posts a week consistently. I’ll continue to work with the ASQ as chair of the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum, including holding at least 2 events (including an unconference!). I am also trying to pull together a group of speakers to bring data integrity and quality culture as a stream to ASQ BosCon. I’ll speak at least 2 ASQ Conferences. I’ll also deepen some ties with the PDA, including speaking at one conference.

As I continuously work to improve, I will bring the topics I’m learning and implementing back to this blog.